The teacher's loud laughs penetrated the green, dense palm orchard and rubber trees surrounding Ban Tang Yang School, a small school in Thailand's southern province of Satun. It might sound far-fetched if one is told that the teachers were actually conducting a training session for they sounded like they were participating in some fun game.
Naruemon Doungarun involves her students in the ‘Rock, Scissors and Paper Bingo’ game.
Recently, Right To Play (RTP) brought mirth and innovative teaching methodology to the school in a three-day teacher training session at which the teachers were trained to use games to foster students' academic excellence.
Right To Play
With programmes in 26 countries, RTP is an international non-governmental organisation that deploys sports and games to develop life skills, improve health, teach conflict resolution and instil hope in children affected by calamities like war, poverty and disease.
The organisation first arrived in the southern part of Thailand in 2006 to help rehabilitate children affected by the December 2004 tsunami. It was the first phase of its southern Thailand initiative. RTP has now entered the second phase, which consists of teacher training and other activities in Phuket, Trang, Satun and Songkhla provinces.
The aim is to assist and collaborate with Thailand's Ministry of Education (MOE) to enhance teacher capacity and motivation in social and emotional learning through experiential learning methodology, develop teachers' skills to effectively apply child-centred pedagogy, foster an environment for child-centred learning and social development, and evaluate the alignment of RTP's experiential learning technique with the social and emotional learning achieved by the MOE's national curriculum.
RTP runs the project in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund, the MOE, Chulalongkorn University, Thaksin University and the Education Service Area Office (ESAO) in each area.
"It is a different approach from just simply playing games and sport; we actually use games as a way of teaching the new thinking methodologies, so that teachers can apply them in the classrooms," says Michael Bedford, the recently retired former Asian regional director and a main activist of RTP initiatives in Thailand.
"One problem for Thai teachers is that they do not know how to put the theory of child-centred learning into practice," he comments. "How do you teach children to become better citizens, to be more compassionate, to take care of each other, to feel confident in the classroom, and to question the teachers, rather than recite everything the teacher said?" ponders Mr Bedford, elaborating on his expectations.
Students enjoy taking part in games that intensify the learning experience.
Learn by playing
Following the massive training classes for teachers from 24 schools in Satun and Songkhla provinces in July, as a follow-up, the organisation arranged the training session at Ban Tang Yang School, which is one of the schools that had sent representatives to join in some of the previous major training episodes.
At the training course, teachers were exposed to several RTP games, consisting of over 200 selections. These games are initially designed to improve the life skills and health-related elements of the students. The teachers were taught how to integrate the games into classroom lessons on science, mathematics, the English and Thai languages and other subjects.
The teachers have to participate in the games as if they were students. Many teachers admitted they felt like children once again.
One of the games that the teacher-trainees participated in is called "Animal Fun", which integrates fun activities with science.
At the beginning of the game, teachers will have to ask students to name several species of animals and to divide them into three categories: carnivores, herbivores and omnivores.
Then, the students are divided into three groups according to the three categories and the members of each group have to mimic the actions and sounds of their assigned animal so that the other groups can guess the animals their friends are imitating.
Rock, Scissors and Paper Bingo
Another game that can be integrated into any language class is "Rock, Scissors and Paper Bingo".
To integrate it into the English language class, for example, students are given five letter cards. Then, the students pair up and play rock, scissors and paper. The one who wins takes one letter card from his or her opponent. Each pair repeats the process three times, and then the students break up to form new pairs to play the same game. The students repeat the process as many times as the teacher directs.
In the end, the students use the letters from their letter cards to form as many words as possible, and present them to the other students.
Teacher-trainees at Ban Tang Yang School delightfully participate in a Right To Play training session.
For the mathematics class, the "Organised Baskets" game can be applied.
The teacher prepares four baskets and attach a mathematical sign - plus, minus, multiplication and division - to each of the baskets . The students are then divided into teams and each team stands in a row. After that, the teacher puts mathematical question cards on the floor. The cards contain mathematical equations, but with the operators missing, such as 5 ? 10 = 50, 3 ? 7 = 21 and 50 ? 15 = 35.
When the game starts, the first student in each of the rows runs to pick up the question and puts it into the correct basket. For example, the card with 5 ? 10 = 50 should be put in the basket with the multiplication sign. The teammates follow the same process, putting the cards in the correct baskets.
Reflect, connect, apply
Similar to most sport activities, RTP's games are divided into steps: opening discussion, warm-up stretching, main activities, cooling down, and closing discussion.
Applied to a lesson, the core steps are opening discussion, in which the teacher defines the key learning objective of the activity; the main activities; and closing discussion, in which the teacher encourages the students to RCA (reflect, connect and apply) to promote critical and analytical thinking among the students by asking questions as well as referring back to the key learning element.
"At Right to Play, what we've done is to modify the experiential learning approach and then develop our own methodology which we call RCA - reflect, connect and apply. So, after the experience, you reflect on that experience and talk about it. And when you have connected all the experiences, either your own or those of others, you understand how to apply the end result in the future," say Ernesto T. Rebustillo, RTP's regional training officer.
For reflection, the teacher may ask questions like "During the activity, how did you communicate with other teammates?" and "What was the most challenging role in the game, and why?"
In connection, the teacher may ask: "What skills do we need to foster effective communication?" and "Are there any moments during the game in which you can achieve effective communication through body gestures?"
Finally, in the application component, the teacher may say, "Please give examples of two things that you can use to create better communication in the future" or ask "How do you ensure that the body language that you use correctly conveys your messages?"
RCA also aims to teach students how to master their life skills like communication and interpersonal skills, coping and self-management skills, and decision-making and critical-thinking skills.
"The methodology that we use encourages teachers to take into account the idea that you don't only learn maths in the process, but that you learn other subjects of equal importance as well," says Mr Rebustillo.
On the last day of the training session, the teacher-trainees had to design their own games following the guidelines in the RTP game manual and apply those games in a real classroom situation.
The day ended on a positive note voiced by both the teachers and the students.
"The students love to sing and act, and so their enthusiasm made the games fun. However, apart from the enjoyment, they received the knowledge that was attached to the games, too. The students learned teamwork skills, and they have become more expressive as they were always on the alert. They are eager to learn more," Preeda Paduka, a teacher at Ban Tang Yang School, says excitedly.
This is the first time that Ms Preeda has engaged in RTP activities. She promises to use these activities in her class.
"The students asked me to play one more round," she says happily, recounting that her students were keen to learn more. "Actually, RTP requires teachers to use the activities at least once each week. I really want to use them more often than that, as the result is so obviously positive. However, it depends on the situation, as teachers need a lot of preparation, too," she comments.
"Students can also relax during the activities. When they feel relaxed, they can receive new information and knowledge more efficiently," says Alee Rangsun, another teacher, adding that the content has to be taken in consideration when applying the games, since not every content can be applied.
Adinan Pakbara, the director of the Satun ESAO, has been very enthusiastic with the programme since the RTP stepped in a few years ago.
He gives the assurance that he will include RTP's activities in the Satun ESAO's operational plan, and suggests that the activities should not be restricted to schools only, but that they should also be disseminated to the communities, as well as remote schools on islands and in the far-flung areas of the province.
"I believe that with these kind of activities, people will be happy and understand each other more, although they come from different backgrounds," Mr Adul comments. "These activities can prevent social disagreement, depending on how we apply them," he adds.
For more information on Right To Play, visit http://www.righttoplay.com
About the author
- Writer: Purich Trivitayakhun